Friday, September 7, 2012

Spinning Update: Little Fishes.

I have some good news, I'm finally done spinning the Spunky Eclectic Club fiber from February.  Why did it take so long?  Well, right about the time that the club fiber arrived, I received something in the mail that I had been waiting for...this.

Yep, that's the UP.  Want a more complete picture?

This is a custom made turkish spindle that Jeri Brock made for me.  The arms are in cherry and the shaft is curly maple, both woods found throughout the UP.

Anyways, when the spindle came in, my immediate thought was "I should set aside something special to break this in with."  Of course, at the time, I was still finishing up some drop spinning on a different scrolled turkish for a secret project that I can say nothing about.  Once that was done, it was on to Little Fishes.

I don't know how she does it, but Amy at Spunky Eclectic finds the best preparations of fiber.  I've had merino be anything from barely ok to pretty darn good.  This fiber, though, was pretty amazing.  It drafted so smoothly that I can't describe it.

This colorway is really fun.  There are a whole variety of blues that kind of weave into one another and sections of bright yellow and just a little bit of white showing through.

So, if I haven't explained this before, a turkish spindle allows you to wind your yarn into a center pull ball as you spin it.  The only slight problem with this is that I have to break a bump of fiber into two pieces since the spindle will only fit 2oz.

This splitting of the fiber into two pieces can result in a slightly awkward transition if you're not careful.  What you have to do is braid each half in such a way that you start at one end of the original braid, spin to the break and then start the second half at the break.  Then, when you bring them back together, you have to be sure to put break to break.

Since I did this fiber on a drop spindle, I decided to Navajo ply it to keep the color transitions together.  If you know how to crochet or tie a chain to store rope, you know how to Navajo ply.  This is simply tying a chain with really long loops and spinning it. This results in a 3 ply yarn that keeps the colors together. If you want the colors to have longer transitions, you can tie longer loops at the color changes, and if you want shorter transitions, get the picture.

In the end, I got 130 yards of fiber at 13 wpi, which is roughly a DK weight yarn.  The reason I say roughly is that there are many tables out there with conversions and they are not consistent.  I used to use the one on Wikipedia, but recently found out that one is  Now, I use a table from Knit Picks since I trust them much more.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with this yarn yet.  If you have suggestions, please reply below.  Better yet, if the pattern is on Ravelry, post a link to the pattern below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spinning in Public: Starbucks (and Fields of Dreams)

The crafting group that Katie and I are in meets at an old winery that has been converted into office space.  It's a great place that I love to visit.  Only, there's one problem: the temperature is almost impossible to regulate.  So, several weeks ago now, in the middle of a heat wave, craft night was almost unbearable.  Of course, we weren't willing to simply not craft, so we found another place to work.

One of the other people in our group suggested that we visit a Starbucks that was not too far away.  So, we packed up and headed out.  What they didn't tell us was that this particular Starbucks is in the town square and the hotbed of high school summer vacation activity.

After securing seats for the evening, I went back out to the car, grabbed the wheel and hauled it in.  I mean, why not?  I have a seat, that all I need, especially with a cup holder on the wheel.  By that point, I had already spun the first half of the bump I was working on, so I pulled out the other half.  The June 2012 Spunky Eclectic Club fiber is a really brightly colored rainbow called Field of Dreams that was dyed on Shetland.  I was giddy when I opened it.

The Shetland Islands are the northernmost islands in Great Britain, about 100 miles or so off the tip of Scotland.  The archipelago is far enough north, that it shares the same latitude as Fairbanks, AK.  As a result, the sheep that evolved there are very hardy and their wool very warm.  The wool is very versatile and can be used for just about anything.  One of my favorite characteristics of Shetland is that it's known for puffing up quite a bit when washed, which results in a very lightweight yarn for the size.

With this yarn, I split it lengthwise, which helped me to spin it as thinly as possible.  I also planned on getting the color sections to line up with one another and have the yarn be self striping, but that clearly didn't work out.  My Fields came out to be 130 yards at 12 wpi.  The colors are fantastically bright, even after washing.  The pictures are all post-washing and the colors are unaltered.

Back to the Starbucks.  Throughout the night, all kinds of people cycled through.  Apparently, I was getting quite a few looks, but I only noticed about a dozen or so.  As we were leaving, these two pretty cute teenage girls came up with a guy in tow.  One of them asked me what the wheel was and what it was used for.  After explaining it, the other one said "Oh, I knit!  I made a hat and scarf last winter.  I tried to teach her to do it, but she wasn't any good".  It was so adorable.  There was the "I have something to talk to the cute guy about" bounce and everything.  After she went all googly eyed when I made eye contact and did my trademark half smirk, half smile, the guy piped up.  "Oh, I uh...I knit too!"  Don't get me wrong.  I knit.  I'm all for guys knitting.  But I can smell desperate teenager like a fart in car.  This poor guy was so stuck in the Friend Zone that he tried to lie about something generally regarded as "unmanly" to get some play with this girl.

Here's the thing.  I don't typically get flirted with by cute high school girls.  I was the guy in high school who the cute popular girls wouldn't give the time of day to.  I didn't even have the chance to be the poor sucker who lies about knitting to try and get out of the friend zone.  Katie tells me that there's something about not giving a flying fuck that appeals to teenage girls, but I'm not so sure about that.

So, when was the last time that you crafted in public and got an unexpected response?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Big Bang

I want to be honest about my spinning experience with my May 2012 Spunky Eclectic Club fiber.  I don't remember much about spinning it.  Here's what happened.

Katie and I are part of a crafting group that meets on Thursday nights at a former winery in one of the other suburbs near us.  There's about 8 of us that show up on a regular basis with several others who come by occasionally.  When we go to crafting night, it's anybody's guess what we'll end up talking about.  Normally,  This isn't a problem.  However, this was just slightly different.

See, I fell in love with the Big Bang colorway the moment that I saw it.  It's on BFL, which is known for being a fiber pretty universally loved by spinners.  So, I ordered an extra 8 oz of it, with the intent of it becoming a shawl.  Now, the shawl pattern calls for a yarn slightly smaller than I typically ply, but exactly the size that I normally spin a single.

Here's where this little story comes together.  When I spin, especially when I spin a size that comes naturally to me, I go into a kind of zone.  I forget what I'm spinning and either lose myself in intense focus, or I stop focusing at all and can pay attention to everything going on around me.  That's what happened this time.

So we're at crafting night and I'm doing a low twist single in a size that comes naturally to me and chatting up a storm.  Over the course of the evening, I spun it all. I don't know how I did it, but I just kept working and talking and having a good time (there may or may not have been a beer or two involved), and I looked down to see that I was out of things to spin.  

I don't recall much about the spinning as I was doing it, but I know that it went very smoothly.  One of the things that will interrupt the groove that I get into is stopping to pull out vegetable matter or kemp.  I didn't have to do that at all.  That's one of the things that I love about Amy's fiber.  No matter what variety it is, there is always very little vegetable matter, and only kemp in breeds that are really known for it.

Since this is a single and I intend to use the yarn for a shawl, I decided to full the yarn.  For those who aren't regular spinners, to full a yarn means to mildly felt it, which gives it additional strength.  In all, there's 448 yards at 11 wpi.  The shawl calls for somewhat more yarn, but I know that the pattern is flexible and that I can fiddle with the needle size to get more out of it.

Like usual, I was quite happy with the club fiber for May.  So, here's my question to you.  What do you do to get the most of your yarn when you may come up a little bit short?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spinning in Public: WSEx

I was first taught to spin on September 17th, 2011.  This was a little bit of a special day in the spinning world because it was Worldwide Spin in Public Day.  This is a semi-organized event to encourage spinners to go out in spin in public.  It's not supposed to be any big thing, but gives people an excuse or some encouragement to take a loved hobby into a public space and talk to people to stop and ask them what's going on.

Personally, I think spinning in public is great and that there's no reason not to do it other days as well.  For me, spinning is an incredibly relaxing way to spend your time and be productive at the same time.  Plus, I'm always up for things that are a bit unusual.

So, this gets me to the bulk of this story.

A little under a month ago now, Katie and I attended the World Steam Expo (commonly abbreviated, WSE, WSX, or (most amusingly) WSEx) in Dearborn, MI.  This is the third year for the Expo, as well as the third year that Katie and I attended.  I love WSE.  It's a Steampunk convention. What is Steampunk?  The easiest way for me to explain it is to imagine that instead of the internal combustion engine becoming our primary source of power, the steam engine won out.  Extrapolate from there.  It's also often described as retro-futuristic Victorian sci-fi.  Basically, it's an alternate history sub genre of sci-fi.  Super nerdy, I know.  The convention is a collection of panels, concerts, a vendor's room, and generally people having a great time.  After the first two years, Katie and I have been to pretty much every panel so, this year, we didn't go to very many.  This left us with some more down time than in the previous two years.  So, I filled it.

What did I do to fill the down time?  Well, at this point, I think you can guess.  I spun.  For the first day or so, I worked on some fiber on a Turkish drop spindle, but finished that off.  Luckily, I had my Ladybug in the car.  Let me tell you, it got a few fun looks.  Both Saturday and Sunday evening there were big events in the evening with a few hours of scheduled down time for people to prepare or nap or what have you.  I decided that would be a good time to spin.  So, I brought the wheel in, set up in a main gathering area, and pulled out some BFL.  Over the two days, about 20 people stopped to ask questions, about a dozen stopped to take pictures, a few asked where they could find more info, and one even took a video.

Yeah, that last one is interesting.  The lead singer of one of the big bands who was at the event gives off an aura of being a giant douche bag.  In fact, in interactions with him the previous two years, that's exactly how he came off.  But, I watched him walk by with his guitar, and two minutes later, walk back without it, sat down, and started asking me what I was up to.  He was shortly followed by another band member, who asked if she could take a video.  I ended up explaining how spinning worked, how we ply to balance the yarn and increase strength, the basics of how the wheel works, including the difference between a single and double drive wheel, and why I find it so relaxing.

When I decided to bring my wheel in, I didn't do it with the intent of getting anybody else interested in spinning, even though I knew that it would be an attention magnet, even in a convention full of people in fantastically outrageous costumes.  All that I did was decide that I wanted to do my hobby, and I didn't care where I was.  If I ended up making a new spinner out of it, that can't be a bad thing, right?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You're Turning Violet, Violet!

Since the stashdown finished up, I have been spending a lot of time knitting, and not so much spinning.  But, I have finished up two spinning projects. Check them out.

The first project that I finished up is in one of my favorite fibers, Polworth.  This was dyed up by Chelsey at The Spinning Loft up in Howell, MI.  Chelsey is a great dyer and I'm always happy with how her colorways come together.

You're Turning Violet, Violet! is a reference to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if you're being old school).  The colorway is pure purple.  Here's my favorite part.  Not only is it a semi splotchy hand paint with two great shades of purple, but it's a semi splotchy hand paint  progression with two great shades of purple.

I don't often end up getting progression colorways so, when I do, I get kind of excited about them.  For this, I spun one bump from start to finish as is.  for the second, I split it into 4 along the length and spun those end to end.  This way, when I plied the two together, I end up with a self striping colorway.  
The 8oz of this great spin turned out to be a total of 440 yards and 9 wpi.  No plans for this yet, so into the stash it goes.

The second spin that I finished up is the April club fiber from Spunky Eclectic
 This colorway is called Robin Red Breast and is in a fiber that I've never worked with before, Gotland.  Gotland is a long wool and, as a result, is a perfect choice for spinning as a single.  Since I've never done a single before and I had absolutely no idea what else to do with this, I figured that this was as good of a time as any to try it out.

In spinning a single for the first time, I learned something kind of important.  When spinning a single, drafting consistently is key.  When plying a yarn like I normally do, any imperfections in my drafting are covered up in the ply.  The areas that are thin in one ply are balanced out by areas that are thicker in the other ply.  With a single, you don't have that luxury.  What you spin is what you get.  
Along with having to pay close attention to drafting, I also got to try out a finishing technique that's new to me, fulling.  There's a risk that you run into when spinning singles.  Let me explain the problem.

The primary reason that we ply yarn is to balance it.  When spinning a single, you only apply twist in one direction.  This tends to make the yarn want to curl up upon itself.  To counter this, multiple singles can be combined in plying to balance the yarn.  You do this by plying in the opposite direction that the singles were spun in.  When spinning something that you want to keep as a single, you can try and minimize the twisting up upon itself by adding a minimal amount of twist.  This is why a long wool is perfect for a single.  Since the staple length is long, you can get away with less twist.  However, low twist singles tend to be weak.  This is another reason why we ply.  So, to counter this weakness, we can full the yarn, which is to partially felt it.  Working carefully, you can felt the yarn in a controlled manner so that the individual fibers join together, but the strands of the single do not.  This also creates a kind of cool looking halo on the yarn.

I'm not completely satisfied with the results of this single experiment, but I'm a perfectionist, so I'm never quite happy with results.  In all, the Robin Red Breast came out to be 158 yds and 16wpi out of 4 oz.  I'm thinking that I may, at some point in the future, make a shawl from it, but there's not much yardage.

What type of spinning experiment do you think I should try next? 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stashdown Update 2

During April's stashdown I learned something very important.  If I truly commit myself to spinning as much as I possibly can within a one month period, I will get a ton of stuff spun up.  As a consequence, I will get completely burned out and not want to do anything productive for a few weeks afterward.

Over the April stashdown, I spun 1665 grams of yarn, totaling 2598 yards.  Yes, over the course of a month, I spun nearly 1.5 miles of yarn.  This is 15 skeins, 5 different fiber types, and 9 different colorways.  Just as a refresher, here's the before.

And here is the after.

I also started a new practice during the stashdown of banding all of my completed yarns.  All that I've done is take an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and cut it into 4 pieces lengthwise.  Then I taped two of those piece end to end and wrapped it around the skein.  I write some of the critical information on the band so that I don't forget like the dyer, the colorway name, fiber type, yardage, and wpi.  If you don't already do this, I suggest starting. 

Since the stashdown, I have been working on knitting a Boneyard Shawl.  I'm knitting it in the Galway Highland Heath yarn from Plymouth Yarn Company in color 706.  This is a practice for the pattern, as I plan on making one out of a combo spin that I did during the stashdown.  One ply is the Burnside Bridge colorway from Abstract Fiber and the other ply is the Rockstar colorway.  Both are on Optim.  I don't suspect that this will happen anytime soon, though, since I have a few christmas presents that I want to be sure get done and I'm not the world's fastest knitter yet.

I will have another post in the next few days with information about two yarns that I've finished spinning since the end of the stashdown, including my first ever single.  I don't know that I'll get much spinning done this week because Katie is leaving tomorrow morning for a conference in St. Louis, so I'll have to spend more time than usual doing housework. 

Until my next post, happy spinning!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Stashdown Update 1

Now that my yarn is finally dry, I can provide an update on the stashdown.  So far, I've finished up two projects.

Here's the first:

This is a 50/50 merino/silk blend from Abstract Fiber in their colorway Rosewood.  It turned out to be 206 yards and 19 wpi, which is I think a new record for me in terms of spinning thin.

Here's another image.

Up next is a two ply combo that I thought would look really good together and I'm really happy with the results.

It's all in optim from Abstract Fiber.  One ply is in Burnside Bridge and the other is Rockstar.  Both have teals and purples, but one has silver and white as well, and the other has darker purples and black.

The two skeins combined for 374 yards and 14 wpi.

Currently on the wheel is the Ashland Bay merino in Midnight.  There's 8 oz of it in total that I have left to spin.  There's about 6 oz done so far.  I think that after the merino, I'll do the Abstract silk/merino in Gold.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Stashdown...The Beginning

During the month of April, I'll be partaking in the Spring Stashdown run by Spunky Eclectic.  You can join in on Ravelry here. I'm also going to be detailing my progress here with semi regular updates throughout the month.

Here's where I start.

 On the top left is 8 oz of Ashland Bay merino in Midnight.  Just to the right of that (with a green stripe running around the ball) is about 8 oz of corrie/mohair blend that I picked up at the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo last year.  I'll be spinning this on a drop spindle, the only spindle project of the stashdown.  The big white ball is either 8 oz or 1 lb (I have to measure to be sure) of shropshire that I picked up at The Spinning Loft in Howell, MI. 

To the right of the shropshire (in the plastic) is 1 lb of Ashland Bay merino in Denim.  The silver that you see to the lower left of the shropshire, the gold to the right of that, and the reddish color in the front are all Abstract Fiber 50/50 silk/merino in Silver, Gold, and Rosewood colorways, 4 oz each (technically 2 oz for Rosewood as I have that half done already).  The silvery blue multi color fiber next to the Rosewood and Gold is 4 oz of Abstract Fiber optim in Burnside Bridge.

And lastly, is 4 oz of Abstract Fiber optim in Rockstar.  This will be plied with the Burnside Bridge when they're both complete.

I have a ton on my plate for the stashdown, and I doubt that I'll get it all done.  But, isn't that the point of a stashdown, to set lofty goals and try your best to achieve them?

Quick Spinning Motivation Trick

One of the things that I've been trying to do recently is spin thinner.  Many people have told me "once you start spinning thin, it's really difficult to spin thick", but I'm not trying to get to lace weight or anything, just to sock weight. 

Anyways, one of the troubles that I find with spinning thin is that it currently takes a lot of concentration for me to do it evenly.  Which means that it takes forever because I'll spin and concentrate and then have to stop for a while.  With a single color fiber, this can become monotonous.  

Take, for example, my current fiber that I'm trying to spin thin.  It's a 50/50 merino/silk from Abstract Fiber in Rosewood.  It's a lovely color and great to work with.  Check it out:

The problem for me is that after spending so much time on 2 oz of fiber that takes a lot of concentration, I'm wiped out and quite unmotivated to spin for a while.  So, what I'll do to break it up a bit, is spin something that goes quickly or has color variation.  Between halves of the Rosewood, I'm spinning 4 oz of Optim from Abstract Fiber in Rockstar.  I plan on eventually plying it with 4 oz of their Burnside Bridge colorway.  

The optim does come out quite thin but, for one reason or another, takes much less concentration to keep it even while doing so.

Of course, there are downsides to doing things this way.  I've found that it can be kind of difficult to make both halves of a 2 ply be the same size when spinning something else between them.  I've seen clear plastic gauges with black lines on them to quickly measure WPI while spinning which could help, but I haven't been able to find one to purchase yet.  I did just download the iSpin Toolkit app for my phone which includes a WPI gauge, but I haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet.  Once I do, I'll update with how it works.

In the meanwhile, if you find yourself not wanting to spin because you're unmotivated to tackle the second half of a taxing project, try spinning something a little more relaxing or fun in between.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Who is the Spinning Dude?

Let's get one thing straight right now.  This blog is not about bicycling, it's about making yarn by hand.  Don't get me wrong, I'm cool with bicycling, but it's not the type of spinning that I do.

My name's Bryan Sebeck.  I'm a dude and I spin.  I know, spinning isn't exactly the most common hobby around, and it's even less common for a dude to spin.  But, it's what I do.  If you have a problem with it, get over it, because I don't care.

I also run another blog, Yooper Steampunk, which I've not been so great at updating.  Primarily, it's because I've picked up spinning.  I've been spinning my own yarn since about September of 2011, after a good friend of mine invited my wife and I to join her at a spinning group.  We figured that we'd go along and see what it was all about.  What we didn't count on was falling in love.  There is no hobby more relaxing than spinning.  Between the constant motion of either treadling your wheel or spinning your spindle, the slight vibrations of the fiber as it moves through your fingers, and the soft feeling of wool in your hands, it's almost impossible not to be relaxed by it.  If you're allergic to wool, I'll give you a pass, but only if you're allergic to wool.

So, how did a dude who's been spinning for less than six months come to start a blog on the topic?  Well, as I said, I haven't been so great at keeping my other blog up to date because I've been spinning so much.  What I wanted to do, was to create someplace where I can share my adventures in spinning.  This will include not just pictures of fiber and finished yarn (or as I call it yarn porn), but also thoughts and tips as I learn new things and experiment with new techniques.  
This post is really just to have a bit of a place holder while I put together the look of the blog.  Don't worry though, updates will be regular as I use this venue as a topic specific diary.

I want to try and gain a following here.  I don't know the best way to go about it, but I'm going to say right now that there will occasionally be rewards as milestones are passed.  I don't know right now if I'll do milestones of page views, followers, or some combination, but the rewards will be yarn, handspun by me.  I may at some point start dying fiber and allow whomever wins a reward to have some great level of input in their yarn.  But, to start, it will either be fiber and colors completely chosen by me, or with some amount of input from the winner (ex. you give me a list of your favorite colors and I choose a colorway and fiber for you).

So, please join me as I improve at my new hobby and address whatever comes up as a man in what is typically considered a "woman's" activity.